Discovering the Numbers, Cases and Stories of Teen Dating Violence
abusive relationships with violence and rape have attempted suicide.
That’s just statistics. There are real stories of pain and loss behind every number. It’s scary and it is not the way it should be. High school romantic relationships, like all relationships, should be about respect and love. Teen dating violence should not be ignored.
Teen abuse is serious. It’s not romantic. It’s not just someone being all about the drama. There are a lot of confusing messages about what romance is from TV, books, music, and movies. It doesn’t take much work to find a story that’s called romantic but reads like someone who stalked and stalked until their victim gave in and said yes. We’re told that if a boy pulls the hair of a girl on the playground, it means he likes her. It’s supposed to be funny. How does violence and bullying become a code for love? Healthy relationships don’t work that way.
There is no one definition of dating. We all know what it means when we say it.
One person’s definition of dating, though, might be very different from another person’s definition. That’s why communication is so important. When it’s teenage dating and first relationships, there can be even more confusion between couples. What is a couple, how serious is this, questions like that can’t be answered by a dictionary or dating websites for teenagers. Maybe the couple is calling it just hanging out or hooking up or friends with benefits.
On the website Love is Respect dating is defined as two people in an intimate relationship. That definition is inclusive enough for all teens. High school relationships can go by many names, but teen violence has no place even if it’s just hanging out or whatever the couple calls it.
A healthy relationship has strong communication. Both people say what they mean. They listen to each other. They support each other. They understand and support the other one’s activities and hobbies. Compromise is important to both. The relationship makes both people happy. There is no place for violence or bullying or controlling each other.
With dating abuse, the definition is more than just physical. Abusive relationships cause people to live in fear, walking on eggshells, and constantly bracing them for the next blow. The next blow isn’t necessarily a punch or slap.
Physical abuse is defined by violence, slapping, hitting, and punching. Even if it’s followed by apologies and promises that it will never happen again, each instance is wrong. Teen dating violence is abuse, plain and simple.
Psychological or emotional abuse is when one partner is bullying the other. Name calling, making the date feel small and useless are all emotional abuse. Isolating the teen away from family and friends is another instance of emotional abuse. Maybe it’s something the teen is unfortunately used to and don’t even realize isn’t normal. If everyone you love calls you names, it’s not hard to think of it as love.
Sexual abuse is when one partner forces the other to have sex, or wants to do more than the other partner. Sexual abuse is also when one partner can’t even consent, because they’re asleep or passed out or high. In a healthy relationship, consent is important. They take no for no and want to do things that the other person wants to do as well.
Stalking is also abuse. It happens to all sorts of people, not just celebrities. When teens stalk a partner, it’s still scary and still abuse. Stalking is defined as a pattern of harassing someone to cause fear. It’s not romance to follow someone all the time and let them know you know where they are and who they are friends with, it’s stalking. It creates fear.
Financial abuse is when one partner controls the other person’s money. Getting their partners fired from their job is a kind of financial abuse.
Digital abuse is when an abuser uses social networks and other online tools to bully or stalk the victim. Telling someone who they can friend on Facebook or follow in Tumblr is the type of controlling behavior abusers often show. Checking everything someone posts or tracking them through their online presence is another way to control them. Some abusers will steal passwords or pressure their partner to give them their passwords until they break.
Signs of Abuse
Relationships are always unique. Signs of abuse, unfortunately, fall into similar patterns. When one person in a couple is doing things like checking the other person’s cell phone or email for permission or teasing the other person in a mean way, the relationship might be becoming abusive. Being extremely possessive and isolating someone from their friends and family isn’t romantic or about us against the world; it’s a classic tactic of an abusive person. When someone thinks they can’t do anything without the other person, they will tolerate a lot.
Other signs of an abusive person are an explosive temper and mood swings. Other signs of abuse are the ones we all think are obvious; physical violence and sexual assault.
The signs that friends and family see when a relationship is abusive may only be them disappearing from their view. You won’t always see bruises or scars. Most abuse victims know to hide those marks.
If you suspect your friend is being abused reach out to them. Let them know you’re concerned. Listening without judging is incredible support your friend might not get anywhere else.
Be careful how you phrase it, though. Abusers convince the abused it’s their fault. As a friend, you have to avoid saying things that play into the same mindset. It’s not your friend’s fault that their girlfriend smacks them for saying the wrong thing. It’s not your friend’s fault that their boyfriend has called them stupid so many times they’ve started to believe it. If you say things like “why doesn’t she just leave?” when you talk about celebrity news. You might be hurting your friend without even knowing it. Make sure to rethink those attitudes before you listen to your friend.
Help your friend by letting them know abuse is not normal. Let your friend know that you will still be there for them whether they leave their abuser or go back to him. Your friend might go back to their abuser. They might stay when you think it’s crazy. That’s why listening without judgment, without being one more voice in their head telling them they’re wrong is such a gift to an abuse victim.
Don’t contact the abuser or try to shame them online or in person. It can make the abuse even worse and it won’t stop the abuser. None of us can fix people or change them like that.
Steps to Take if You’re in an Abusive Dating Relationship
If you’re in an abusive relationship, understand that you can’t stop someone who is abusive from hurting you. You don’t have that power. Promises an abuser makes that they will change or that if you just acted right it will all be fine are not true. Even if the abuser thinks they mean every promise. They might think abuse is how your express love. It’s not true.
The way to stop the abuse is to leave and stay away. It can be very hard to be ready to accept that. One of the scary parts is that when you leave, your safety will be much more at risk at first. It helps a lot to have a plan. Hopefully you won’t have to do it alone. There are resources. Websites such as loveisrespect.org and scarleteen.com have advice and links to places where you can find real help. There are state and national hotlines you can call anonymously.
It is not your fault. You are not to blame. It is not normal for dating to be a source of pain. It may take a long time to feel safe, but it’s what you deserve.
Abuse is wrong
Abuse in any relationship is wrong. Teen dating abuse can look like romance or teen drama but it’s not. It’s vital that parents and teens recognize that something is wrong so that abuse doesn’t continue. Abuser and abused need help, but most important is understanding that the abuse victim is not to blame.